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Life with Liz: The car window

I swear my appliances and my vehicles and any other thing that can break knows exactly when the income tax refund is coming, and they conspire to break at the same time.

This year, it’s the automatic window on my car that has decided to be ornery, and after making a crunchy noise that I chose to ignore for a few weeks, got stuck in the halfway open position on one of the nicer days last week.

Of course, that nice day was immediately followed by one of March’s “lion days,” and now my car is sitting under a tarp in the driveway, waiting for her date with the mechanic and my refund check next week.

Not that we didn’t give it the good old college try. This past year, YouTube has been our salvation this past year when it comes to small odd jobs around the house, and the broken window was no exception.

I followed along with the video, directing the Wonderful Husband to the hidden screws to remove the door panel. Pretty soon G joined in, and we sent him running for the tool bucket, which has also become a well-stocked household staple.

As we proceeded, with the requisite amount of parental cursing as cold fingers dropped screws and fumbled wrenches, I observed how much better our family has gotten at working together.

For one thing, everyone was quickly equipped with headlights, so no flashlight holding was necessary. As the WH called for tool after tool, G quickly procured them from the bucket and handed them off.

Just a few months ago, we were still calling the screwdrivers “the flat one” and “the X one.” I also got a major eye roll when I was asked to hand over a pair of dikes and I accidentally grabbed a regular pair of pliers.

Once we got inside, the culprit was obvious.

I’m definitely going to mess this up, so I’m just going to say there was a cable involved and the cable became frayed and pieces of the cable jammed up the motor that moved the window up and down. I don’t know if any of that is the technically correct terminology, but it’s the best I can describe it, so that’s going to have to do. It’s possible that the motor will still work when all the junk is pulled out of it, but at that point, we decided not to dig too much further and turn it over to a professional.

Oh, I did forget to mention one other helper: Duncan. Once he became aware of the action, there was no keeping him away. His first order of business was to steal every implement with a handle out of the tool bucket. When he got in trouble for that, he decided to just make off with the largest screwdriver he could find and occupy himself by chewing on the handle for five minutes. When he got bored with that, he decided to come and stick his nose into the action, literally. I mean, what project isn’t enhanced by the addition of a wet nose and muddy paws? At that point, one of us was officially designated “dog distracter.”

As we were working, I lamented the loss of the good old-fashioned window crank, which of course led to the discussion of the good old-fashioned wing windows that were usually the only form of air conditioning in our parents’ cars. Then we had to talk about how we used to never wear seat belts and how all the cool kids would cram into the back of their moms’ station wagons to go to away swim meets, baseball games or Dorney Park. G has heard these stories many times before, and he still can’t believe we ever went anywhere in a car without wearing seat belts.

I’ve spent way more money on replacing coolant and compressors than my parents ever did, as A/C now comes standard on vehicles. I guess I’m about to add automatic window repair to that tally, too. Now will also be a good time to have them take a look at whatever is going on with the heating system.

With three different zones in the vehicle, and everyone capable of adjusting their own, when the right switches are flipped, it was only a matter of time until some switch or connection stopped working perfectly. Every once in a while, when we hit a pump, the fan will shut off. Then begins the game of looking for the next pothole to gently rumble over to get it to turn back on. I’ve already YouTubed it, and I suspect it could be one of three different things, but all of them are out of my wheelhouse.

We’re not there yet, but this last year has definitely improved our self-sufficiency greatly. Whether it’s tinkering on the car, or the fact that any of the kids can now follow basic recipes and when I’m running late from work, they can be counted on to start dinner, or the fact that everyone is now proficient in painting, edging and carpet removal, I am counting it as a win. I am grateful for the resources and technology that have made learning easier, while at the same time hating it when it malfunctions and causes more complications. It’s been a crazy year, full of ups and downs, and more than once I’ve felt just as jammed up as the window is, but just like the window, I’m trusting the professionals to get things fixed, and hopefully in a few more weeks, I’ll be enjoying driving my kids all over the county again, as our activities get back to normal, and I’ll have my choice of running the A/C, or rolling down the window.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.